Monday, 27 March 2017

All animals are equal...

...but some are more equal than others.

George Orwell’s famous slogan in Animal Farm is still relevant today and perhaps it always will be, but what exactly do we expect from modern slogans about equality?

To begin with, allow me to make a minor discursion into the realms of blogging. The people responsible for the blogs in my blogroll and those who leave comments here and elsewhere are some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever encountered. No that’s not flattery, it is an assertion about many educated people who have seen something of life and have drawn worthwhile conclusions.

I don’t necessarily have a personal allegiance to all those worthwhile conclusions, but as they are rooted in lives different to mine that isn’t important. What is important is that a decent education and a few decades of experience seem to produce many people worth listening to, far more than we ever come across in the mainstream media.

In a hierarchical society this feels odd, because the governing classes and their chosen experts are still supposed to hold the aces as far as informed thinking is concerned. The trouble is we know this is not the case. So much so that it has become somewhat embarrassing.

Equality is a political mantra which seems just as likely to prevent genuine equality as promote it. As in Animal Farm, the equality mantra can be subverted and used to promote inequality. One thing we have learned since the digital world shook up mass communication is how limited our governing classes really are. They should be smart but don't seem to have the time or the inclination. Or they leave it to tame experts who gave up on smart in favour of plausible because that is how the political winds blow.

An important driver for all this seems to be time. Many people seem to spend a considerable amount of time mulling over the infinite complexities of real life. Not in a concentrated session of deep thinking, but at odd moments throughout the day. Any pause in the flow of daily life and the musing self seems to wake up, pick up a thread and follow it until daily life resumes its sway. It may only be a few minutes, it may be longer and the threads may not join up, but it seems to be a common habit which over time adds up to a rounded point of view.

The joy of it is not to be found in new certainties, but new possibilities, not in joining a popular narrative but in standing apart to avoid the crap, not in some indecisive waffle but in insights which may be no more than finding a better word or phrase. Even these tiny steps are pleasing, encouraging enough to explore further and even make a slight shift in perspective. Sometimes that does happen, that shift in perspective. Gosh – how radical is that?

A grotesquely overweight man lumbers into the supermarket, a car brakes sharply, a van roars by, popular music blares from a passing car, another terrorist incident takes the media by the throat, the aroma of coffee stirs a memory, a child’s cry stirs another, a politically correct loon has yet another rant about something unimportant, a financial scandal erupts, a bee buzzes past the window and a politician says something silly - again.

All these mundane happening and countless others stimulate the musing mind and it is surprising how often the results are worthwhile. Surprising because we mainly hear from those who have less to say but a public platform from which to say it.

So what has that to do with equality? To my mind this issue has been growing for many decades. The internet has merely given it a good hard nudge. The covert message embedded in the political notion of equality is that even a whole lifetime of experience, knowledge, understanding and analysis is worth nothing if you are not on the official stage where some are more equal than others.

You are intelligent and you have a lifetime of experience to draw on. I know that and so do you, but the political game cannot accept it. The effects of mass education, mass communication and economic growth have outstripped our antiquated political ways. Not completely because a few people still read the Guardian and many more watch TV. In their obsolete world we still have our intellectual superiors and their ideas must outweigh ours because that is the very essence of hierarchy.

And yet many of us look on with ever increasing incredulity while those who are more equal than we will ever be strut their ignorant stuff on a profoundly unequal stage. 


Sam Vega said...

Yet another excellent post, circling around the old theme. I don't know whether you ought to write a systematic book about it, or whether blogging - returning again and again from different angles in an impressionistic way - suits the purpose better.

I'm intrigued as to why the ideas of those who are more equal (politicos and celebrities, etc.) are so banal or obviously wrong. If their only qualification for being in the elite is that they are aggressively pushy and self-obsessed, then, other things being equal, they ought to be right more often. Perhaps the medium distorts the message. Or perhaps pushiness and self-obsession mean you miss out on learning stuff.

Henry Kaye said...

I have recently been re-reading two books recording the political social and economic history of the 20th century - one by Christopher Lee and the other by Paul Johnson. I have enjoyed reading them both mainly because I have lived though a lot of that period and took pleasure in comparing my own memories with those of the authors. I was always well aware that the books had to include the author's opinions as well as documented "fact". Both gentlemen were agreed in their opinions that so many of those whose views on political, social and economic matters, were expressed and acted upon, were proved wrong! I'm sure that many readers agreed with them as did I. I wonder, therefore, why so many of today's "leaders" are so confident that their expressed views are right?

Anonymous said...

Was government ever about equality? well maybe for an hour or two once a century. The rest of the time it is a family business to be kept firmly among friends. Note how the same names crop up in politics and in the media and in big business. Once you are in you can recognise a good racket and advise one's sons and daughters to keep to it.

As for thinking, I am afraid brains are a cheap commodity and it is not what you know but who you know.

James Higham said...

'Rightness', in the sense of being correct, seems to desert people once they achieve office. Or maybe the wrong sort sought office.

A K Haart said...

Sam - thanks and yes, it is odd that politicos and celebrities are so banal or obviously wrong, or it needs explaining. I'm sure non-attachment comes into it in that it tends to be incompatible with ambition.

Henry - many years ago I read Paul Johnson's book 'Intellectuals' and enjoyed it. I'm not sure how sound it is, but interesting to read about famous intellectuals from a much more critical angle.

Roger - yes, life is as much about who you know as it has ever been and that may explain the stupidities. However the stupidities may not be as viable as they were in a complex and more informed world.

James - that may be because 'rightness' isn't as important as perceived 'rightness'. Perceived 'rightness' can be manipulated and that gives it a major advantage over genuine 'rightness'. Until manipulated 'rightness' goes wrong perhaps.